Saturday, 26 June 2010

Ghana v USA

Ghana 2 - 1 USA (after extra time)
Boateng 5 Donovan (pen) 62
Gyan 93

The whole stadium was thrilled by this one, except the red white and blue bits. Africa have survived in the competition.

Boateng's goal came from the first meaningful attack of the game. He picked it up two yards inside the American half after Clark dallied and lost the ball in a tackle, and just ran at the goal and kicked it in. You felt the US defence might have had more of an opinion about it, but they clearly felt it was an internal matter for the Ghanaians to resolve themselves, and chose to stand aside.

Perhaps they were confused by the opposition names. There were two Mensahs, for instance, John and Jonathan. The name may be popular in Ghana because of its historical association with John Mensah Sarbah, an early nationalist leader. There are also two Boatengs, although one of them plays for Germany - Jerome, his half brother. And then there's Amoah, Asamoah and Asamoah Gyan. So maybe the US team were having difficulty working out exactly who they were supposed to pick up, or maybe they were just a bit slow out of the blocks.

They rallied, not for the first time this tournament. They'd come back from an early goal against England, and from two down against Slovenia. Against Algeria, an injury time goal saw them through.

And they're ranked 14th in the world, as against Ghana's 32nd. Granted, America and Mexico tend to acquire rankings above their skills because they play so many easy games against small Caribbean islands in the CONCACAF qualification rounds, but they're still a grownup team whose players play in the top European sides. Except Jay Demerit, who plays for Watford, but even he's thinking of higher things, we hear. Although to be honest, if I was an American called Demerit, I'd insist it was pronounced Demerit, not Demerit.

Their manager Bob Bradley is top notch as well, and he's always prepared to make the hard calls. After half an hour he took off Clark and brought on Edu. There was a touching moment when he took time out to give Clark a hug, and whisper consoling words in his ear. It didn't seem to do much for Clark, but as managers always say in these situations, who wants a player that's happy to be taken off?

Their best players, as so often in the past, were Dempsey and Donovan. Dempsey found Findley alone in the box, and Kingson had to make the save. Jim Beglin reminded us that Dempsey's pass came off the same left foot that he used to score against Robert Green, and to be fair we've no grounds for claiming it was a different one. Although that particular shot was a powder puff effort that the keeper was unlucky with, as they are sometimes, and hardly something to boast about.

There was a similar chance at the other end, as Asamoah Not Gyan pounced on a moment of indecision from Demerit and had his shot well saved, and then it was half time. The camera lingered on the strange sight of Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger watching the game together, surely the most powerful dirty old men at the tournament. Somewhere in the world Jerry Hall and Monica Lewinsky were realising how much they had in common. You can't always get what you want, said the commentator about the state of the game, but I couldn't help thinking about Clinton's sticky fingers. He seemed to know a lot about the game, Clinton, or maybe he's just a cocksure little twat. Perhaps next time they could mike him up, then we'd know.

Bradley repeated his trick of using Feilhaber as a second half supersub, and he was unlucky to have his shot saved at point-blank range, after Ghana had failed to cut out a cross and Altidore had flicked it on to him. it was the Dempsey Donovan partnership that got them back on level terms, though.

Dempsey burst through some rather lazy Ghanaian defending, and into the box. Jonathan Mensah brought him down, and Donovan took the penalty. It went in off the post, Donovan breathed a sigh of relief and the momentum shifted to the US.

For a while it was mainly Kingson in goal that kept Ghana in it. First he went in feet first and got the ball just ahead of Altidore, carried it through the challenge and cleared on the other side of him. Then he saved from Bradley at close range. He got lucky though when Altidore rode a Mensah challenge in the box, tumbled and from a prone position shot just wide.

Extra time, and Ghana sorted it early. Three minutes in, Gyan scored a goal really very much like Boateng's at the start of the game, just running in and shooting, although this time it went over Howard rather than in at the near post. It took the heart out of the Yanks, whose most meaningful chance for the rest of the game was a hook shot from Demerit in the last minute, that the keeper watched sail a foot over the bar.

So relief for the local fans, and the quarter finals will have one side from Africa. More accurately, sub-Saharan Africa, as the fate of Algeria seems to have met with widespread indifference. I wonder why.

But a relief, anyway. Tomorrow, England.

1 comment:

  1. "the most powerful dirty old men at the tournament" - excellent.